Larsen and Garamendi Ask Coast Guard to Reactivate Polar Sea

WASHINGTON—Reps. Rick Larsen, WA-02, and John Garamendi, CA-03, today asked the Coast Guard to reactivate the Polar Sea icebreaker in a letter to Commandant Paul Zukunft. The U.S. currently does not have the icebreakers it needs to meet its responsibilities in the Arctic. Putting the Polar Sea back into service would better enable the U.S. to secure its national security, environmental and economic interests in the region.

“While the successful reactivation of the Polar Star has improved Coast Guard icebreaking capabilities, it is clear that additional resources are needed.  The Polar Star has projected future service life of only seven to ten years, ending around the time a new icebreaker could come into service. Reactivating the Polar Sea could bridge the gap between permanent retirement of the Polar Star and the activation of a new icebreaker by 2022,” write Larsen and Garamendi. “We urge you to consider the reactivation of the Polar Sea quickly, so that your agency’s views on this matter can be taken into account during Congressional consideration of reauthorization legislation.”

Larsen has been a leading voice in Congress calling for the U.S. to pay more attention to the Arctic. He has advocated for better icebreaking capability and introduced a bill to create an Arctic Ambassador.

Garamendi, the current Ranking Democrat Member on the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, has fought to raise awareness of the imperative to recapitalize as quickly as possible the Coast Guard’s aged fleets of offshore cutters, including the recapitalization of its icebreaker fleet, to address the onset of maritime commerce above the Arctic Circle and bridge likely future gaps in the Coast Guard’s operational capabilities.

Full text of the letter follows.

 

June 26, 2014

Admiral Paul F. Zukunft
Commandant
United States Coast Guard
2100 2nd St. SW, Stop 7000
Washington, DC 20593

Dear Admiral Zukunft:

Congratulations on your appointment last month as the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. As you begin your tenure as Commandant, we want to highlight the need for reinvestment in the Coast Guard’s icebreaker fleet, including reactivation of the Polar Sea.

As the Coast Guard’s May 2013 Arctic Strategy document indicates, your agency will be tasked with new responsibilities in the Arctic and currently lacks the resources to meet those responsibilities. Further, the Coast Guard’s High Latitude Study in 2011 indicated a need for at least three medium duty and three heavy duty icebreakers.

While the successful reactivation of the Polar Star has improved Coast Guard icebreaking capabilities, it is clear that additional resources are needed.  The Polar Star has projected future service life of only seven to ten years, ending around the time a new icebreaker could come into service. Reactivating the Polar Sea could bridge the gap between permanent retirement of the Polar Star and the activation of a new icebreaker by 2022, giving our country at least two active heavy duty icebreakers during this period and important backup capabilities should the Polar Star need unscheduled repair.

As you are aware, Congress continues to consider annual Coast Guard reauthorization legislation. Our understanding is that the draft Senate reauthorization bill contains funding for reactivation of the Polar Sea, while the House of Representative bill passed earlier this year does not. Your support for reactivation of the Polar Sea could help make the case for funding as a conference agreement is worked out between the two houses. We urge you to consider the reactivation of the Polar Sea quickly, so that your agency’s views on this matter can be taken into account during Congressional consideration of reauthorization legislation.

Congratulations again on your new position. We look forward to working with you to ensure the Coast Guard has the resources necessary to meet its many missions in the Arctic and throughout the world.

Sincerely,

Rick Larsen                                                                 John Garamendi
Member of Congress                                                   Member of Congress
Washington State, 2nd District                                    California, 3rd District

 

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